Google Nexus 6: early look
Every year, Google releases a new family of its Nexus devices to showcase the latest developments in Android, and also to give manufacturers a rough idea of what it imagines a flagship device should look like. In the past couple of years, Google has also released the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 with a very lucrative price tag, half that of rival flagship phones. With the Nexus 6, however, Google seems to go back to try and work with arriers - pricing is back at the traditional $199 on-contract/$649 off-contract (in contrast with $349 off-contract for the Nexus 5).
This price, however, does buy you cutting-edge hardware: the Nexus 6 comes with a 6” display with an impressive Quad HD (1440 x 2560-pixel) resolution, the latest Snapdragon 805 system chip, 32GB of internal storage in the basic version, as well as an improved, 13-megapixel camera. We have the Nexus 6 in our hands and while we cannot give you the full review just yet, here is an early look to sum up our initial impressions.
Design and size
The Nexus 6 comes with a large size and that might sound like a setback for some people - just hearing about a 6” screen smartphone is a bit of a shock, but it’s important to remember that not all 6-inch devices are created equal. In fact, in terms of pure dimensions, the Nexus 6 is very comparable with Apple’s 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. In-hand feel is nice due to the curved back, and it actually nestles in the hand rather nicely, and is not as clumsy to operate as some might expect. Still, this is one big phone and if you're coming from a 5-inch-ish device, you'd feel a huge difference in handling due to the larger size.
Also, the Nexus 6 comes with support for wireless charging, which is nice.
You’ll see some say the Nexus 6 has a 6-inch display (like we have so far), while others claim it’s a 5.9-inch one. The exact size of the screen diagonal is 5.96 inches, so 6” is a better approximation. It’s an AMOLED panel with a resolution of the impressive 1440 x 2560 pixels, and a very high pixel density of 493ppi. This translates into everything looking pleasingly sharp, with no visible pixelization, and luckily, at this resolution, we can’t really see much of AMOLED (and Pentile matrices) checkerboard artifacts.
How good of a display is this? We’ll be measuring it in more depth to give you a conclusive overview in the near future, but at first sight, the display does look a bit too punchy in a typical AMOLED fashion: oversaturated, but not all that accurate. Brightness does seem to be sufficient for comfortable outdoor viewing, and also, the screen brightness can be reduced to very low levels, which is great for the times you use your phone at night.
Interface: sweet Lollipop
Android 5.0 Lollipop is in many ways one of the largest updates to have ever happened to Google’s mobile operating system. We’ve been exploring its every detail in a lot of depth recently, but in a nutshell let’s say that it does feel like a big step forward in visual style with the new material design language that brings a lot more color to Android, livening it up. The snappy animations, little improvements like quick access to flashlight from the notification tab, and most importantly, the fully redesigned stock apps, all contribute to the refreshing feel of Lollipop on the Nexus 6.
There is one new and useful feature that is worth a separate mention: it’s called Ambient Display, and it basically wakes up the phone’s display when you pick up the device or when you have new notifications.
Processor and Memory
We already know that the Nexus 6 comes with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 system chip. It features a quad-core Krait 450 CPU with clock speeds of up to 2.7GHz, Adreno 420 graphics, as well as 3GB of RAM, which is as powerful as devices get on Android currently. Our initial impressions are for this being a super snappy device - it's running fast and smooth in daily operations. We’re yet to run all the benchmarks to give you a better overview of the performance power of the Nexus 6, so stay tuned.
Just like previous Nexus devices, the Nexus 6 lacks expandable memory via microSD card slot, but in order to avoid huge storage problems, Google has the basic version starting at the generous 32GB, rather than 16GB. Plus, you have an additional option of a 64GB Nexus 6 for $50 more for those who need the extra space.
The Nexus 5 arrived with a promise to be a step up in camera performance, as prior to it Nexus smartphones had lackluster cameras. The Nexus 6 builds up on that base and comes with a 13-megapixel camera that features optical image stabilization and a fast, f/2.0 lens. Physically, the camera looks a lot like the one on the Moto X (2014 edition) with a ring around it, housing two LED lights serving as flash.
Such a wide-aperture lens and OIS are a good starting point for improvements in low-light imagery. On the video side of things, we have support for 4K recording at 30 frames per second, and that’s a nice extra. We’re looking forward to telling you more about the camera with samples and more detailed analysis coming soon.
Hearing about a gigantic, 6-inch smartphone by Google might have scared more conservative buyers, but the Nexus 6 surprised us with its fairly compact dimensions for the screen size and the fact that is about as large as an iPhone 6 Plus. It’s a phablet, it’s large, but it’s not impossibly large.
With a renewed focus on sales with carriers, we do expect the Nexus 6 to reach more people, and that’s a good thing as the new stock Android 5.0 Lollipop experience is good-looking and runs impressively smoothly on the powerful Nexus 6 hardware.